The Victoria Gate of Kew Gardens

From Historic England entry:


(Formerly listed as Victoria Gate, ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS)

II Mid C19. Elaborate iron gate. A central pair with flanking pedestrian gates, all with arched panels, foliated and scrolled. The centre gates with overthrow. Gates set between four rusticated stone piers crowned with vases. Coronet with “VR” within panels on inner gate piers. Gatepiers of rusticated Portland stone, surmounted by urns. Iron panels of Cumberland Gates identical in design.”

Zoe Wolstenholme writes, on the website of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew:

“…Kew’s Library Art and Archives collection holds a first edition of Woolf’s Kew Gardens with (sister Vanessa) Bell’s original woodcut prints. This first edition was featured in the 2014/15 exhibition: Inspiring Kew at The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. Vanessa Bell’s prints, like Woolf’s prose, are busy and at first sight seem more of a pattern of shapes than a scene of the gardens. These slowly come into vision mirroring Woolf’s story which comes together over the process of the reading experience, through her own “pattern of falling words”.

Kew also holds a later edition of the short stories which are decorated by Bell with fluid illustrative lines. In this 1927 work Bell creates borders around and through the printed text, each page framed with a different scene. On the first page sprawling flowers reach up towards the text before spilling down the margins of the next pages creating borders of blooms just as the planting does along the paths at Kew itself. Next this morphs into tree-like illustrations with large leaves on slim straight trunks and Grecian temples like those of Aeolus or Bellona in the Gardens. Bell’s decorations take us on a visual tour of the Gardens accompanying Woolf’s story. Moreover, these works showcase Bell’s typical style, similar to her works for the Omega Workshops and decoration of her own home in East Sussex, Charleston…”

From the website of the British Library:

Published in 1927, this is the third edition of Kew Gardens, a short story by Virginia Woolf. Set over the course of a hot July afternoon in a flower bed, the story moves from descriptions of plant and insect life to snatches of overhead conversations.

Although ‘Kew Gardens’ captures vivid scenes of natural beauty, the conversations speak of past regrets, disappointment, and empty relationships. The two men bring death and World War One into the frame, and the jerking movement of the older man suggests shell shock.”

FROM THE OVAL-SHAPED flower-bed there rose perhaps a hundred stalks spreading into heart-shaped or tongue-shaped leaves half way up and unfurling at the tip red or blue or yellow petals marked with spots of colour raised upon the surface; and from the red, blue or yellow gloom of the throat emerged a straight bar, rough with gold dust and slightly clubbed at the end. The petals were voluminous enough to be stirred by the summer breeze, and when they moved, the red, blue and yellow lights passed one over the other, staining an inch of the brown earth beneath with a spot of the most intricate colour. The light fell either upon the smooth, grey back of a pebble, or, the shell of a snail with its brown, circular veins, or falling into a raindrop, it expanded with such intensity of red, blue and yellow the thin walls of water that one expected them to burst and disappear. Instead, the drop was left in a second silver grey once more, and the light now settled upon the flesh of a leaf, revealing the branching thread of fibre beneath the surface, and again it moved on and spread its illumination in the vast green spaces beneath the dome of the heart-shaped and tongue-shaped leaves. Then the breeze stirred rather more briskly overhead and the colour was flashed into the air above, into the eyes of the men and women who walk in Kew Gardens in July.

The figures of these men and women straggled past the flower-bed with a curiously irregular movement not unlike that of the white and blue butterflies who crossed the turf in zig-zag flights from bed to bed. The man was about six inches in front of the woman, strolling carelessly, while she bore on with greater purpose, only turning her head now and then to see that the children were not too far behind. The man kept this distance in front of the woman purposely, though perhaps unconsciously, for he wished to go on with his thoughts…

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